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Poll: Santorum Leads Romney in Ohio Poll: Santorum Leads Romney in Ohio Poll: Santorum Leads Romney in Ohio Poll: Santorum Leads Romn...

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The Trail: 2012 Presidential News from the Field / CAMPAIGN 2012

Poll: Santorum Leads Romney in Ohio

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum during a rally, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)  (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

photo of Steven Shepard
February 15, 2012

President Obama's approval rating in Ohio is at its highest since the death of Osama bin Laden, but the president is still locked in a virtual tie with Mitt Romney for the Buckeye State's 19 electoral votes, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released early Wednesday. Romney, however, trails former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., among likely voters in the state's Super Tuesday Republican primary on March 6.

Forty-seven percent of Ohio voters approve of the job Obama is doing as president, the poll shows, compared to 48 percent who disapprove. That is Obama's highest approval rating in Quinnpiac's polling of the state since mid-May of last year, and it also represents an improvement from Obama's 44-percent approval rating last month. Forty-seven percent of independent voters now approve of the president's job performance, while 46 percent disapprove.

Still, Obama remains neck-and-neck with Romney, despite the former Massachusetts governor's fading popularity. Obama leads Romney, 46 percent to 44 percent, within the poll's margin of error of +/- 2.6 percent. Last month, Obama led Romney, 44 percent to 42 percent. Independent voters now tilt to Obama, 45 percent to 41 percent; last month, Obama led by a single point among independents.

 

Two in five voters now have an unfavorable impression of Romney, compared to 37 percent who view him favorably—the first time this cycle that Romney's favorability rating has been net-negative. Last month, 36 percent of voters had a favorable impression of Romney, and 34 percent had an unfavorable opinion.

Romney is trailing Santorum in the state's Republican primary, the poll also shows. Santorum leads Romney, 36 percent to 29 percent, with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 20 percent, and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, at 9 percent. Six percent of likely primary voters are undecided.

As he does nationally and in other states, Santorum's lead is based on his advantages with more conservative voters. He captures 44 percent of tea party supporters—compared to 21 percent each for Gingrich and Romney—and he leads Romney by 15 percentage points among white evangelical voters. Romney runs best among moderates and older voters.

In the general, however, Santorum would be a slightly weaker candidate in Ohio: Obama leads him, 47 percent to 41 percent. Obama's lead over Santorum among independent voters swells to 12 percentage points.

Despite Santorum's weaker general-election performance, he is the only Republican viewed by more voters as caring about the needs and problems of people like them. Fifty-three percent of Ohio voters say Santorum cares about their needs and problems, compared to 29 percent who say he does not. That compares favorably to the 58 percent who say Obama cares about their needs and problems—and the 39 percent who say the president does not care.

But just 40 percent of voters say Romney cares about their needs and problems, while a 48-percent plurality say he does not. Only 40 percent of independents and 43 percent of white voters say Romney cares about their needs and problems.

The Quinnipiac poll was conducted Dec. 7-12, surveying 1,421 registered voters. The margin of error for the full sample is +/- 2.6 percentage points. The poll includes interviews with 553 likely GOP primary voters; those results carry a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percent.

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